Show of hands: how many of my dear readers are confident in their ability to make a pistol shot on a man sized target at 50 yards? Next question, how many of you actually practice defensive shooting with a handgun out to 50 yards? I know I don’t; the longest shot I’ll take during serious defensive practice with a pistol is 20 yards.
For rifles I don’t actually practice out much further than I do with pistols. The average WW2 infantry engagement took place at 30 yards or less and while I’ll take the occasional 100 yard shot with a rifle; I generally restrict my “practical” practice with a rifle to 50 yards and closer.
I’m a firm believer in the adage of “you fight as you train”, which means that since I’m not in the military any longer I need to train for situations that I’m likely to encounter. Mathematically speaking, the odds of me needing to engage someone with a rifle beyond 50 yards are, well, slim and none – and slim just left town. Similarly, the odds of me needing to engage someone with a pistol beyond 15-20 yards are extremely slim as well.
That doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t practice long range shooting. Shooting at longer ranges is an excellent test of your skill as a marksman, at the same time shooting accurately at long range is a completely different discipline from shooting fast and accurate at close range. Both have value and are skills that should be practiced.
I like long range shooting; producing small groups on distant targets brings a smile to my face every time. I also like practical shooting, fast shooting at close range targets is just as much fun. The thing is that when I’m practicing defensive shooting, I’m working to improve skills that I could end up betting my life on. That’s why it is so important to train for scenarios you’re likely to encounter.
50 yard headshot on a moving target? Probably not. 7 yard COM shot on someone with a knife? Much more likely. Again, that’s not to say that the skills involved in the 50 yard headshot are less valuable than the skills in the 7 yard body shot.
I don’t want bullseye shooters to take any of this as a slight – what I’m trying to point out is that there is a distinct difference between training for using a gun in self-defense, and shooting a gun accurately. There also isn’t any reason that you can’t do both, but you have to remember that they are two different things entirely.